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How the Second Lebanon War Set the Stage for the War in Syria and the Rise of Iran

Aug. 30 2017

Israel’s war with Hizballah in 2006 seems unrelated to today’s internecine strife in Syria. But in the view of Eyal Zisser, the two conflicts are connected by a thread that runs through the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the Iraq war, Syria’s own withdrawal from Lebanon, and Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East:

Both [the Lebanon war and the Syrian civil war] are manifestations of the inherent weakness of state players in the region, i.e., the Arab states of the Middle East. These states have been weakened and in some cases have all but disappeared, leaving in their wake a vacuum filled by quasi-state organizations like Hizballah and Hamas. . . .

More importantly, these two events are a blatant demonstration of Iran’s penetration into the Levant as part of its drive to attain regional hegemony. . . . In fact, the Second Lebanon War and the Syrian civil war have strengthened Iran’s presence in the region, even if the wars have taken a steep toll on [Hizballah’s leader] Hassan Nasrallah and on Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s local clients. The situation presents Israel with a dilemma as to the right response to the challenge generated by Iran. . . .

Until [Assad succeeded his father, Hafez] in June 2000, Syria had been the entity that set the tone in everything having to do with Lebanon, including Iran’s presence there. Syria had a military presence in Lebanon and controlled the country with an iron fist, while more than once exerting a moderating influence on Hizballah. Moreover, all the political powers in Lebanon subordinated themselves to Damascus and even conducted their communications with Hizballah through Syria. . . .

After Syria was compelled to remove its forces from Lebanon in the spring of 2005, Hizballah finally crawled out from under Syria’s shadow, and together with Iran became the entity that helped Assad withstand the American pressure on him (in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the fall of Saddam Hussein). The Second Lebanon War intensified this trend, increasing the personal, political, and even military dependence of the Syrian president on Iran and Hizballah.

This dependence, and Iranian regional influence, have grown even greater since the civil war began in Syria.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Second Lebanon War, Syrian civil war

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals